The hardware's faster, the software's better, the Internet's more in tune with education, and there's still nothing better than a good book. Welcome to the best products of the year.
The top 100 products section should be a reason to rejoice for educators. Products of all stripes are constantly getting better, and more are being created specifically with K-12 education, and the specific concerns that go along with it, in mind. But most educators will have to read this section with one eye on the new products and the other on their shrinking budgets. As our cover story depicts, the recession is hitting K-12 hard this year, with some districts seeing their budgets rolled back to circa 1990-numbers.
What this really means, of course, is that more than ever, every dollar counts. The good news is that the following list will help, not just frustrate, administrators. It's a clich?, but this group of products really is the best yet, with more emphasis on standards and achievement than before.
Just taking a quick spin through each section proves my point. Hardware is chock full of items that two years ago educators couldn't dream of having in classrooms. There are digital cameras, portable projectors and whiteboards that capture each stroke of the marker. And the old standbys, computers, handhelds and printers, continue to push the envelope for what can be provided for a fair price.
Software contains the typical products that you might expect, but also includes programs that will allow teachers to create online courses, do student assessment instantly, and even do a Reading Record while they walk the class.
Books include eye-opening tomes on how brain research can-and should-alter your teachers' classroom methods as well as practical how-to guides to integrate project-based multimedia into classrooms.
While the Internet is full of Web sites that will be familiar to you, they all deserve a new look because of additions made. Among the few sites you may not be familiar with, the Exploratorium's site (www.exploratorium.edu) brings some of the magic of this San Francisco landmark into your district, and LearningSoft's Indigo Learning System (www.learningsoft.net) allows districts to test students' skills according to standards, and then prescribe a specific curriculum to overcome their deficiencies.
This year is the 15th such time District Administration has compiled a top 100 products list. As always, we listened to every opinion we could get, from reader comments to random remarks made at trade shows to the informed opinions of our vast editorial staff (thanks to Laura Dianis, Jean Marie Angelo, Odvard Egil Dyrli, Melissa Ezarik, Angela Pascopella, Dan Kinnaman, Gary Stager and Terian Tyre). This year, significant thanks goes to our new editorial board members for their invaluable insight, namely telling us what products make their day-to-day life easier.